Myth Busters Monday
Do smokeless tobacco and nicotine delivery products really reduce harm?
A debate is currently raging over what is known as “harm reduction”: a policy to encourage smokers to move to “less harmful” tobacco products, such as traditional smokeless tobacco products or emerging nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes.
While moving away from combustible products such as cigarettes does reduce health risks, these products are not “harmless”. And science has not had a chance to keep up with the possible health risks of emerging products, so the jury is still out.
Public health experts have been concerned that these products could serve as a “gateway drug” to use of conventional smokeless tobacco and to cigarette smoking, especially among young people:
- 5.6% of young people report using any type of smokeless tobacco
- 72% of current youth smokeless tobacco users report smoking cigarettes too,
- 81% of young people who use only Snus or dissolvables were also smoking cigarettes
- 40% of youth smokeless tobacco users said they had any plans to quit using tobacco
- E-cigarette use almost doubled from 2011 to 2012 in both middle and high school students, with the percentage of high school students who have ever used e-cigarettes jumping from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012
- Smokeless tobacco use among young people is associated with lower perceptions of harm from all tobacco products
As concerns over the marketing of these products mirrors earlier marketing techniques used to hook youth on cigarettes make the news, the question is will these products be part of a solution to the tobacco problem or a way to hook a whole new generation.
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Pediatrics Vol. 132 No. 3 September 1, 2013. pp. e578 -e586. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0843) The 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey. November 14, 2013 / Vol. 62 / No. 45. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)